Surrogacy in Queensland – what’s legal and what’s not?

Although surrogacy has now been legal in Queensland for over 5 years, and has certainly peaked the interest of media in the past couple of years, there still seems to be a degree of public ignorance about what is legal and what is not.  The confusion is not helped by the fact that each Australian State and Territory has different laws about surrogacy. In all jurisdictions (except the Northern Territory where there are no laws regarding surrogacy), there are strict regulations and eligibility requirements that must be met before a surrogacy agreement can be entered into and performed and in what situations this may be done. https://www.qld.gov.au provides the following information on the situation for surrogacy in Queensland:

The Surrogacy Act 2010 (PDF) regulates surrogacy arrangements in Queensland, including transferring the parentage of a child born as a result of a surrogacy arrangement.

Under the Surrogacy Act, you can:

  • enter into a non-commercial surrogacy arrangement(i.e. no money changes hands)
  • pay or reimburse the birth mother’s reasonable surrogacy costs.

Under the Surrogacy Act, you can not:

  • enter into a commercial surrogacy arrangement (i.e. where one party pays another)
  • advertise for any surrogacy arrangement—whether you’re willing to be the birth mother or seeking someone to be a birth mother for you
  • receive any fees for arranging a surrogacy.

In Queensland, any person, regardless of their relationship status, can enter into a non-commercial surrogacy arrangement.  If you are the intended parent/s, you:

  • may be a married or de facto couple (including same-sex de facto couples) or single
  • do not need a genetic connection to the child or birth mother
  • may use any method for conception, such as in-vitro fertilisation, artificial insemination, self-insemination or natural conception.

It is essential to understand that surrogacy arrangements in Queensland are not enforceable. This means that either the intending parents or the surrogate may change their mind at any time before the court makes a parentage order.  If you are the birth mother, you may decide not to give up the child to the intended parents. If you are the intended parents, you may decide not to permanently care for the child.  However, a court may enforce the part of the arrangement relating to paying the birth mother’s reasonable surrogacy costs in some circumstances, such as if the birth mother gave up the child to the intended parents and consented to the parentage order.

It is an offence for Queensland residents to enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements overseas. This means that a person who engages in such an arrangement can be found guilty of an offence (punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment). In some other Australian jurisdictions, it is not a crime to enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements overseas but the intended parent(s) may be unable to obtain, or have difficulty in obtaining, a parentage order due to the prohibition on commercial arrangements.

https://www.qld.gov.au/law/births-deaths-marriages-and-divorces/surrogacy/surrogacy-laws/

The material above should be considered as information only and should not be taken as legal advice.  Any person considering entering into surrogacy is advised to obtain independent legal advice.

Project planning continues…

This week I have been quite overwhelmed and more than a bit excited by my progress in planning the research trip.  I have now made contact with significant contributors in the fertility and surrogacy sector in almost every location, and I have been just blown away by how friendly and helpful everyone has been, and how much support I am getting towards the project.  Working in private practice can sometimes feel like living inside a bubble – it has been quite eye opening to step out of the bubble and see how many other clinicians, solicitors and other professionals are right there, working away and eager to connect.

I have also had some really beautiful opportunities to describe the project in a social setting with some old friends (some I hadn’t spoken to or seen for… wait for it… almost 28 years). It was so amazing to have them express such in the project and be so excited for me – the sense of responsibility for me to do something amazing with this project is just growing day by day.

The count down is on, and there is now less than 3 months before I fly out.  Wow, still so much to do!

Fertility Matters launch

I just wanted to share an initiative by a couple of fabulous “iVFlings”: Rebecca Featherstone Jelen and Candice Thum (nee Reed), who are launching a national campaign aimed at understanding the community’s level of knowledge of fertility and what affects it.

A message from Candice and Rebecca (national Fertility Matters campaigners):

“Fertility and reproduction had always been a part of the conversation for us growing up, but it often surprises us how little others seem to know about the subject. Both of us are now mothers and want our children to receive sound information on reproductive health and fertility, not just how conception occurs and how to avoid it.

As the first generation of kids born through this science, we iVFlings believe it’s extremely important that we stand up and be part of policy decisions around fertility at all levels.

We are the real people, the faces of IVF and there’s lots everyone can learn from us.

Our project: ‘Fertility Matters – know your fertility inside out’,  aims to increase education so everyone can have an informed conversation about reproductive health.

We need your help to get the message out to the community, so we can reach young adults to complete the survey. We hope you will invite friends to ‘Like’ the Fertility Matters Facebook page from your individual Facebook pages https://www.facebook.com/fertilitymatters15.  The Fertility Matters survey and information about iVFlings at http://www.ivflings.org

This campaign is not just for men and women dealing with fertility issues, or those born through ART. We hope our campaign will also encourage families to talk more openly about their fertility so generations to come are aware of how common fertility issues are.

Thank you for helping us and for being part of the conversation”.

Nepal Surrogacy ban

Designing my itinerary for my upcoming project to investigate cross-border surrogacy has been a real challenge.  Many of the places where surrogacy is available overseas (and particularly at a lower financial cost) can be complex travel and business destinations.  I had initially included Kathmandu in my itinerary, as surrogacy has become a rapidly expanding business in Nepal over the past couple of years.  However, after the catastrophic  Nepal earthquake earlier this year, the Churchill Trust determined that the physical safety risk was too high and would not support my travel there.

Late yesterday, I learned that the entire situation for surrogacy in Nepal has shifted again.  Just as was the case in Thailand and India, these changes occurred suddenly, and though it was not without some warning, it has taken many people by surprise and will cause further massive shakeups to the commercial surrogacy industry (particularly in the Asian region).  I wonder what kind of effect this will have for families who are already in Nepal undertaking their surrogacies, or were about to embark on the process?

The Republica newsletter on August 25th 2015 reported:

The Supreme Court (SC) of Nepal has issued an interim order to immediately halt the surrogacy services in the country. The single bench of Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha on Tuesday gave the stay order on surrogacy. Advocate Pushpa Raj Pandey and Prabin Pantha and a few others had filed a petition demanding and an end to surrogacy services claiming that they were being operated in the country without any legal grounds.

In the interim order, the SC has also asked the hospitals operating surrogacy services and the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) to furnish clarification citing legal grounds on which they were ruining such businesses.

The SC has ordered them to immediately halt the services stating that surrogacy services should be run only after formulation of laws, not merely on the basis of a letter provided by department of the MoHP.
Many private hospitals have been providing surrogacy services on the basis of permission letter issued by Personnel Administration Division (PAD), which is not the authorized department of the MoHP to issue such letters.The MoHP needs to formulate laws on surrogacy before allowing surrogacy businesses to operate.

In the writ filed on Sunday, the petitioners have said that hospitals should not be allowed to carry out human trafficking in the name of surrogacy services at a time when there are no laws governing them. It has named the prime minister, cabinet secretariat, MoHP and Health Department as the defendants in the case.

Other defendants are Grande City Clinic and Diagnostic Center, Grande International Hospital, Om Hospital and Venus Hospital, all of whom have been providing surrogacy services.

The writ states that women are economically exploited in the process as hospitals charge hefty amount from the clients and pay only up to Rs 4,00,000 to surrogate mothers.

The government’s decision to allow surrogacy services that takes undue advantage of women’s poverty, ignorance, lack of jobs, low social status and open border with the lure of money to sell their wombs is height of irresponsibility, as per the writ.

http://www.myrepublica.com/society/story/27011/sc-orders-halt-to-surrogacy-services.html

Modern dads make a difference to their kids

This content in this article really just makes sense, but we still seem to need to validate dads who want to be involved and emotionally engaged with their kids.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the current generation of fathers is  striving to improve on what they perceive to be the errors of their fathers – not to be critical (I mean really, we all just do the best we can and parenting is really hard!) but because the opportunity is always there to learn from past mistakes and make changes.  In my practice I hear new mums making really similar statements “I want to be a better mother than what my mother was to me” but dads generally don’t have the same opportunities to talk about these issues so this type of journalism is important.

Embrace those emotions, you new dads! Your kids will love you for it and you will be making happier, more capable kids!

6715122-3x2-700x467http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/rnafternoons/modern-dads-embrace-feelings-and-their-kids/6715116

Donor conception

I just found this great article discussing IVF and donor conception, which gives a really well informed picture of current 3rd party reproduction treatment practice in Australia.

Thank you to The Conversation.com for the article “Your questions answered on donor conception and IVF” (August 11th 2015).

http://theconversation.com/your-questions-answered-on-donor-conception-and-ivf-45715

A few thank you’s…

While I am still in deeply engrossed with the process of organising my upcoming trip, I wish to make a few thankyou’s.

Firstly, to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, and the Queensland Selection Committee for recognising the value of the project and for making the assessment that I was a worthy candidate for a Fellowship.  This is a massive honour, and I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be undertaking the project.

To my referees, Stephen Page, Steven Fleming and Kate Bourne, thank you for recommending me and the project and for providing your support to the application.  I really appreciate the vote of confidence each of these individuals have given me as well as the assistance and contacts they continue to share.

To Fiona Hawthorne, for her mentoring me through the preparation of my Fellowship Application.  It is incalculable how much the experience of a past fellow adds to a Fellowship Application.

To my husband and family, for supporting me to apply and encouraging me take the opportunity to spread my professional wings to disappear overseas for 7 weeks to undertake the project.

and to all the various friends (you all know who you are), who have encouraged me or helped me with preparing for the project- every little bit has been appreciated!

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust

I am thrilled to announce that I am the recipient of a 2015 Churchill Fellowship to investigate the implications and risks to Australian families considering Cross Border Surrogacy.  From December 2015, for 7 weeks, I will travel to the USA (Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston), Mexico (Villahermosa), Russia (St Petersburg and Moscow), India (New Delhi and Mumbai) and Cambodia (Phnom Penh) to visit clinics and other services who assist Australians to undertake surrogacy arrangements.  I will meet with fertility clinic staff, fertility counsellors, surrogacy lawyers, surrogacy service brokers, and of course surrogates and intending parents, to gain a better understanding of what the experience might be like for anyone considering travelling to these locations to seek surrogacy.  I hope that I will then be able to use this information to provide counselling at home to families considering surrogacy, and assist them to make healthy, safe and informed decisions about their surrogacy treatment options.

On Friday 7th August 2015, I was very proud to stand alongside the other 20 Queensland recipients of the 50th Anniversary 2015 Churchill Fellowships.  Our Fellowships were presented by His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland.  If you would like more information about The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, please visit https://www.churchilltrust.com.au11838580_447336185457171_5120818853269152410_o

Welcome!

I am a Clinical and Health Psychologist and fertility counsellor working in Brisbane (Australia).  I speak with people about a whole range of issues, but most often, my clients come to discuss their infertility, or the treatment they are undertaking to help them achieve a pregnancy including use of donor conception and surrogacy.

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